Martina Devlin: 'A story of loneliness and a girl who could have been anyone's daughter'
This is a story about loneliness - about being without friends, but wanting to fit in and be liked. It tells of a girl who was not the same as her classmates and wound up bullied and isolated because of that difference.
A brutish fate lay in store for the young girl who shared a name with the most famous of Russia's Romanov grand duchesses - Anastasia.
She was a teenager who loved singing and practising her dance moves, who used to post YouTube videos of herself tap dancing or choosing clothes from her wardrobe to wear. So far, so unremarkable.
But at the age of 14, Ana Kriegel was lured to a derelict farmhouse, sexually attacked, battered and strangled. She struggled hard for her life. "No, no - don't do this," she cried, fighting back as best she could. Her love heart locket was found stuck to the builder's tape used to choke her - a detail, once heard, that's hard to forget.
It's an appalling tale but the most chilling aspect is the age of the two boys involved in her murder. They were 14 when they stood trial and 13 when the deed happened; children killing children.
We learned much about Ana's short life and merciless death during the trial in Dublin. That other girls moved about in groups but she went around alone. That she didn't mix well but wasn't a natural loner - she wanted friends but had difficulties making them.
We learned, too, that music gave her joy and she would go out walking with her headphones on. Her mother and father protected her as best they could - there was a strict rule that she could not stay out after dark.
During the course of the trial we saw her parents hand in hand, grief and horror scored into their faces. Retired DIT lecturer Patric Kriegel and his wife Geraldine gave evidence about this child they loved and nurtured.
They adopted her from Russia when she was two and a half, and she grew into a striking girl who was taller and physically more mature than her contemporaries.
But Ana found it challenging to be accepted in her adoptive country. She had health problems - almost deaf in one ear, she needed to stand right in front of people to hear them. She longed to make friends of her own age but kept failing, and told her parents she felt invisible. Seeking attention, one day she painted a black eye on herself before going to school. She also set up fake online accounts. Subsequently, her parents sent her to counselling and supervised her phone activity.
Her mother said Ana was mocked for her height and because she was adopted - goaded about her "fake mam and dad". She told of malicious comments posted on her social media accounts. Her father said Ana was full of fun but impulsive and sometimes misunderstood. "She was a teenager," Mr Kriegel reminded the court.
Now, consider the excitement this solitary young girl must have felt when it looked as if she had been accepted. A go-between called to her house, passing on an invitation to meet a boy she was known to like - too rare a prospect to pass up.
Her father said she turned to give him a "big smile" and seemed happy when she went out. "I won't be long," she told him. He watched from the window to see which direction she took and saw Ana and boy B heading for the park. The next time he saw her, it was to identify her body.
It was important to hear her parents' words of love for their "unique" child in that courtroom, counteracting Boy B's description of her as a "weirdo" and "kind of, like, outcasted" (sic). Boy B revealed a callous teenage system, saying "the popular kids and probably even the unpopular people" didn't like Ana.
Victim-blaming, he told gardaí she wore "kind of slutty" clothes which "looked like she wanted people to look at her".
The Kriegels were not the sort of parents who left their daughter to fend for herself. Arriving home from work 20 minutes after Ana had gone out, Ms Kriegel began texting her to tell her to return home.
She was "immediately concerned" when her husband said Ana had gone out with Boy B. Her response underlines just how isolated Ana was among her peer group: in evidence, Ms Kriegel said she answered: "What the hell was she doing with him? No one calls for Ana." She had "no friends".
Feeling like an over-protective mother but concerned for her child, a conflict any parent can identify with, Ms Kriegel and her husband started searching for Ana there and then. She was still alive when they embarked on their hunt. They reported her missing just four hours after she left home.
The couple did everything possible to keep their child safe but still she ended up violated and murdered. This is a story about a girl who could have been anyone's daughter. Read it and you will weep.